Technical innovations are known and understood by experts long before they become official. So, in a sense, it is no surprise that the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) has ratified the first 5G New Radio (NR) standard. It is news, however. The spec is important both as a milestone and what it makes possible.
NSA 5G RN is for non-standalone operations. This means that though it will increase speeds and reduce latency, it relies on a carrier's existing LTE infrastructure, according to RCR Wireless. Despite getting that boost, it is a true 5G NR standard.
Proponents who had asked for this interim standard to be promulgated by the end of the year got their wish with about 10 days to spare. The commentary in the story suggested that fast tracking the standard was a reaction to concerns that the market could fragment amidst signs that Verizon was pushing its own approach.
A blog by Lorenzo Casaccia, the vice president of Technical Standards for Qualcomm, said that NSA 5G NR is targeted for deployment in early 2019. A press release on the finalization posted at the Ericsson website includes comments from many of the players. One takeaway is that the standalone and NSA versions are part of the same family. Thus, the NSA announcement is important as a step toward the pure 5G standards to come:
The 5G NR lower layer specifications have been designed so that they can support Standalone and Non-Standalone 5G NR operation in a unified way, to ensure that 3GPP benefits the global industry with a large-scale single 5G NR ecosystem. We express our appreciation for the tremendous efforts that 3GPP has dedicated to accomplishing this challenging standardization schedule.
The announcement indeed was expected. Last summer, Intel said it would provide a mobile trial platform for NSA 5G RN. Telecom TV links to stories from early in the year that provide context about the "mini rebellion" that led to the creation of the interim NSA standard.
The development of standards is difficult even under the best of conditions. In the world of 5G, the going is even harder because it involves a good deal of new science. The development of the NSR version of 5G seems to have been a bow to both technical and political realities. It is a nice gift to the 5G ecosystem during the holiday season. It suggests that progress is being made toward even more ambitious goals.
Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.